Crisis center

Matt Hardin, executive director of the South East Idaho Behavioral Crisis Center in Pocatello, sits in the men’s dorm room at the center.

When someone’s 24-hour time limit at the South East Idaho Behavioral Crisis Center is running out, the Pocatello center decided it is open to extending the person’s stay for their safety.

By law, anyone who checks into the crisis center can only remain there for 23 hours, 59 minutes in “a single episode of care,” but that cap is avoided by checking them out at around the 23-hour mark, re-evaluating them and checking them back in, according to the Pocatello center’s executive director Matt Hardin.

It is a measure followed by the Idaho Falls Behavioral Health Crisis Center, too.

“A detox is going to take three, four, five days easy. So if we’re kicking people out at 24 hours, that’s right when the cravings are going to start to kick in and they’re just going to go out and use again,” Hardin said. “If someone wants to hurt themselves and they still want to hurt themselves at 24 hours, are you going to kick them out and tell them to go home? That wouldn’t sit well with me morally.”

One of Hardin’s main takeaways from the center’s first quarter is who is staying more than a day. Individuals transported there by police are averaging two- to three-day stays – the same number as the overall clientele.

“I would really like to highlight that because I think the idea might be that these guys don’t want help. Or if law enforcement is picking up, they need to go to jail,” Hardin said. “But they’re staying the same amount of time as somebody coming in on their own. So they’re seeking help. They want help.”

Bannock County Sheriff Lorin Nielsen said everything has gone “seamlessly” with the new center, which treated 181 people in the first quarter.

The South East Idaho Behavioral Crisis Center, located at 1001 N. 7th Ave., N. suite 160, is nearing its fourth month in service, opening on April 15. It is a free service and clients are there voluntarily.

“Before when we ran into people in crisis, we had two options: One, go to the emergency room. Or two, go to jail,” Nielsen said. “This has given us an alternative where they don’t have to get the big hospital bill or jail because I’m pretty adamant that jail is not the place for mental health rehabilitation. And so we’re pleased to have it and it’s working extremely well.”

Nielsen took a different takeaway from the quarterly report, noting there are more people self-admitted than those being taken there by law enforcement. The report states 66 percent of clients are self-admitted.

“That’s what we want in the first place,” Nielsen said. “It relieves us to go about doing our other duties, instead of being tied up.”

Hardin developed a formula that roughly calculated that police departments and emergency rooms will avoid $1.3 million combined in costs in the first year, which he said is approximately the same amount the state government is providing the center yearly. He used data from the first three months to forecast out. The equation doesn’t factor in how much of the cost individuals would have covered.

Hardin said the state government requires him to provide a cost-saved statistic.

“I had to do a lot of digging with the hospital, the county and the jail to just try to come up with something, and so this is my first stab at it,” Hardin said.

The center serves seven counties, so Hardin is attempting to achieve outreach beyond Bannock County. A couple weeks ago, he went to Power County to meet with its local jail officials, law enforcement, a prosecuting attorney and a judge. He provided a presentation to them about the center.

Hardin said the biggest obstacles are transportation and housing for clients after treatment. It’s an issue the crisis center cannot solve because of parameters set up by the Idaho government, but the Pocatello facility’s staff can help launch preparation for a patient’s exit.

Of the clients, 43 percent are homeless, according to self-reported data. Places like Aid for Friends are among local shelters that can be utilized, but Hardin said there are still not enough options.

“How do we get them back home? With the homeless, what can we do to begin the housing process? Who can we get them in touch with to begin getting an application for housing?” Hardin asked. “And so some of those more long-term issues, it’s not something we do here at the center, but it’s something we can start by just trying to make that handshake and hand off these clients to other agencies in town or whatever that handoff looks like – that’s probably been one of the biggest obstacles.”

For the community’s part, Hardin said it has helped significantly.

For instance, the local Salvation Army provides hot lunches for crisis center clients five days a week, Pizza Pie Café has given free food and Portneuf Health Trust donated over half the furniture to the building and continues to provide support “in any way possible.”

“I’m surprised with how well the community has embraced us,” Hardin said.

Substance abuse program opens near Pocatello Crisis center

A new Bannock County-run substance-abuse program for individuals ordered to partake in it by a local court is stationed in the same building as the South East Idaho Behavioral Crisis Center.

D-6 Treatment, which opened June 24, currently has four counselors, according to Ashley Bringhurst, the executive director of the program. She said that two more counselors will be added this month.

The program provides intensive outpatient services and outpatient services, Bringhurst said. Previously, She said drug courts would contract with a community provider for treatment.

The 6th District Court represents Bannock County, Bear Lake County, Caribou County, Franklin County, Oneida County and Power County.